The Law that governs merchant shipping in Nigeria is the Merchant Shipping Act of 2007 Nigeria enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The office for registration is the Nigerian Ship Registration Office, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), which was established by Section 28(2) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act 2007.

In Nigeria, a ship cannot operate commercially in or from the waters of Nigeria unless the ship is a Registered Nigerian Ship, registered by law of another country and is by the law of that country exempted from registering in Nigeria; or unless the ship is a licensed Nigerian ship operating solely within the waters of Nigeria and where the ship is exempted from registration.

The Merchant Shipping Act provides that to be eligible to register a Nigerian Ship in Nigeria the applicant must be;

  • A Nigerian Citizen;
  • Joint owners not exceeding five persons
  • Bodies corporate established under and subject to Nigerian Laws, having their place of business in Nigeria
  • Such other persons as the Minister of Transport may prescribe

For registration, the Act provides that there shall be a Central Ship Registry for the registration and licensing of Ships in Nigeria.

Procedure and requirements for Registration

An application for the registration must be made formally in writing to the Registrar at a port of Registry in Nigeria subject to the approval of the Minister. The form for registration is available on the NIMASA’s website.  The owner of the ship or agent will submit a formal letter of application attaching the following documents;

  • A completed NIMASA application form
  • A completed NIMASA approval of name of ship form
  • Copy of Certificate of Incorporation
  • Evidence of registration as a shipping company with NIMASA
  • CTC of Memorandum and Article of Association
  • CTC of Form CAC 7 and CAC 2(Particulars of Directors and Allotment of Share capital). The share capital of the company must not be less than Twenty-Five Million Naira. (N25 Million)
  • Company’s current tax clearance certificate
  • Company’s bank statement or reference letter
  • A declaration of NIMASA ownership form to be issued by the Ship Registry.
  • The applicant is to make an application for survey and issuance of Certificate of Tonnage measurement to facilitate the flag survey of the ship.

The applicant is also expected to provide details of its particulars when registering a Ship. These details should include the following;

  • Full names, address and occupational operation of the applicant
  • Evidence of ability to operate and maintain a ship
  • The logbook of the ship will also be provided for inspection by the Registrar of Ships.
  • Evidence of sufficient financial resources for the operation and maintenance of the ship.

Furthermore, the particulars of the ship must be provided for registration and the information to be provided for is as follows:

  • The name of the ship, time, place of purchase and Master of the Ship
  • Particulars in respect of tonnage, build and description of the ship
  • Bill of sale or Builders Certificate, that is the evidence of title
  • Certificate of the approved plan issued by NIMASA for a newly built vessel in Nigeria alone
  • Callsign certificate
  • Load line Certificate
  • Report of pre-survey purchase
  • Condition survey report and tonnage measurement certificate as approved by the Minister
  • Certificate of Carving and marking note of the Ship. The ship for registration must be marked permanently and conspicuously to the satisfaction of the Minister. Inspections will be carried out on ship markings at the cost to the ship’s owner.
  • Payment of Registration Fee
  • Evidence of insurance coverage of the ship

It is important to mention that, the Registry can refuse the Registration of a Ship submitted by the Applicant and the grounds upon such refusal may include the followings:

  • The application will be refused where the applicant fails to get the ship surveyed and have its tonnage ascertained.
  • It can be refused where the applicant fails to deliver all the documents stated above for registration
  • The application can be fused where it fails to meet the requirements as stipulated by the Merchant Shipping Act
  • Where the name proposed to be registered exists, the registry will refuse the registration and also where the registration will offend public interest.
  • A company shall not be registered as an owner of a ship until a declaration is made on behalf of the corporation and signs a declaration of ownership referring to the ship as described in the surveyor’s tonnage certificate.

The Registrar upon the submission and compliance of the requirement shall enter into the register the name of the ship, particulars of the origin of the ship, name of builders and date the ship was built, particulars of ship operator, particulars of any mortgage, lien regarding the ship.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) places tariff charged for registration of a ship, and such tariff often subject to review and approval

Cost for the Registration of Ship in Nigeria

The official cost for the registration of ship on the initial registry in Nigeria is on items based on gross tonnage of Vessel, which is as follows:

  • For a ship that has 200 tons, the charge is N120, 000.00 (One Twenty Thousand Naira);
  • To register for a Ship that weighs over 200 tons to 1000 tons, the charge N160,000.00 (One Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira Only)
  • For the registration of a ship with a gross tonnage over 1000 tons, the charge to be paid is N160,000.00 and additional N160,000.00/1000 Tons

Cancellation of Registration

Under the Merchant Shipping Act 2007, the Registrar shall cancel the registration of a ship registered in Nigeria at any time the ship appears to be registered also in a foreign country; where the applicant ceases to comply with the requirements for qualification to own a ship under the Act and lastly where the ship appears to be broken, lost or abandoned.

The shipowner can also apply to cancel the registration of the ship but this cancellation must be supported with the following documents;

  1. A board resolution authorizing the cancellation
  2. Return of certificate of registration
  3. Evidence of payment of official fees for issuance of a certificate of cancellation.

Renewal of Certificate of Registration

The registration of a ship is valid for five years, after which the ship-owner can apply for renewal of the vessel registration and the charges to be paid shall be half of the initial registration cost.

The application for renewal is supported by the following documents:

  • A formal letter of application by the applicant or authorized agents
  • Copy of the Certificate of Incorporation
  • CTC of Memorandum and Article of Association
  • CTC of Form CAC 7 (Particulars of Directors) and CAC 2 (Allotment of Shares)
  • Current Tax Clearance Certificate
  • Competed declaration of ownership form with the passport photograph attached
  • Bank statement/Reference
  • Return of expired certificate of registration
  • Condition survey report
  • Annual survey report of the preceding 3 years
  • NIMASA Official Receipt for payment of registration

Eligible ships For Registration

The ships that are eligible for registration in Nigeria are:

  • Fishing vessels,
  • Floating production storage,
  • Merchant ships,
  • Ships licensed weighing under 15 gross tons,
  • Ships licensed to operate in coastal and inland waters of Nigeria
  • Ships under construction
  • Any ships owned by Nigerians citizens or Nigerian registered bodies corporate

However, it is important to know that in line with International Maritime Organization guidelines, only the double hull vessels can be registered with the NIMASA.


The ship registration in Nigeria is primarily handled by the NIMASA. However, the ships operating in Nigeria water territory may still be subjected to additional requirements by other maritime regulatory authorities in Nigeria such as the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Navy among a few others.

The documents listed above together with the requisite fees must be provided for the certificate of registration of a ship to be issued by the NIMASA.

By Shipping & Maritime Law Department at the Resolution Law Firm


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